Tag: Confessions

All I’ve Got – A Pensive Interlude With Little or No Humor

“Still, I know of no higher fortitude than than stubbornness in the face of overwhelming odds.”
– Louis Nizer

Being sick at home makes you think and I’ve been thinking a lot about my friends recently.  All of them are spectacular and, on the surface, fantastically together.  But the truth is this glittering sheen can be a facade and beneath the great hair, fabulous clothes, and scarily sharp brain, there lurks the occasional demon.   I have friends in bad marriages, friends with eating disorders, friends with crippling depression, friends with addictions…and I stay almost entirely out of their problems.

Let me be clear.  I care very deeply for my friends, many of them are surrogate family members to me, my parents, and siblings.  All of them are men and women of extraordinary ability, skill, depth, and intelligence and I am supremely lucky to have them in my life.  I often feel like the odd man out (being neither a genius nor an prodigy and not extremely talented at any one thing) and wonder if I would have any connection with the galaxy of brightly burning individuals I’m privileged to call friends if not for my three only remarkable attributes: my sense of humor, my loyalty, and my tenacity of will.  Not to say pigheadedness.  All I have is irony and words.

So how then do I justify staying out of their dark, sometimes life threatening situations?  I ask this of myself a great deal, but the answer I always come back to is that I, C. Small Dog, have not the smallest right to interfere.

First of all, I often don’t know how to help.  I am not a therapist, dietitian, police officer, parent, court of law, or psychiatrist.  And my life experience (if not my job!) has taught me that good intentioned idiots can often cause just as much or more damage than badly intentioned masterminds.

Secondly, I have limited experience with many of the trials my mates are going through.  I came close to an eating disorder once a couple of years ago but I was able to 1) recognize it and 2) order it off the premises before things got bad.  I’ve never been in a traumatic car accident and required years of surgery to recover, I’ve never had a miscarriage after several rounds of in vitro fertilization.  I have never contemplated suicide.  I have experienced depression vicariously through a family member and have seen the overwhelming darkness it smothers everything else with, and I know that I have probably inherited a predisposition to it.  Indeed I also came close to falling off the edge into the blackness at one point in my life…but again, I was able to decide not to.  After a major internal struggle, I might add.

Not everyone can decide that.  All the willpower in the world can’t dispel some problems, choice is sometimes just not available.

This is difficult for someone like me to process.  I believe, bulldoggishly, in free will and choice.  I literally cannot comprehend a situation where my ability to choose has been taken away from me, thus I am utterly ill-equipped to advise friends in the grip of hormonal imbalances, psychological struggles, and medical challenges.  I’m very much from the tough love school of friend therapy, which anyone could tell you is often the worst possible thing someone could do.  Occasionally, though, it’s the best.  You don’t come to me for sympathy (because I’m bad at it), you come to me for action.

And that is how I justify my position.  My brand of help isn’t always required.  And when it isn’t, I stand by a silent witness to their struggles, reaching out when they reach for me and backing off when they snap that they are fine.  I will make no commentary, pass no judgment, and tell no one of what they are going through.  I do not feel entitled to intrude on what is often a deeply private pain without an invitation.

But once invited in, you will not get rid of me without ordering me out.  I will camp on your floor to make sure you eat, drive to your house at two in the morning to take the bottle out of your hand and dump whatever is left down the sink, or wrap my arms around you to keep you from hurting yourself.  And I won’t let go.  Because that’s what I have to offer: stubbornness.

Real Live Grownup

“My outer child is holding my inner adult hostage.”
– Unknown

I have this problem.  Going home to see family.  Desperate for my family to think of me as a Real Live Grownup, before every visit I agonize over what to wear, debate whether or not I should get a more mature looking haircut to make me look older, and lecture myself very firmly to avoid bratty behavior, and so forth.

"Where's C.?" "Drat! We must have left her in Calais! Should we go back?" "Nah. We'll see her at Christmas."

See, a couple of weeks after I turned 18, my parents shot off to Belgium leaving me with my grandparents to fend largely for myself.  I got myself off to university in the States and all settled in needing only rides to and from airports.  I didn’t see my family for six months until Christmas.  And then not again until I went home to work for the summer.  Ditto the next year.  My junior year I stayed in the States for most of the summer except for a two week holiday home to England and didn’t go home for Christmas at all.

My point?  Lots of people, like J., leave near enough to their families that they grow up (fully) with them.  All the major milestones are covered and both child and parents can transition through the chrysalis stage and watch the child-butterfly emerge into adulthood pretty seamlessly.  (This is in ideal circumstances, I know it’s not as easy for everyone, but bear with me).

Alternatively, I go bumbling along more or less on my own gumption for huge stretches of time, growing up and developing into an adult, but largely out of view from my parents.  Then, when I do finally get to see them, I’ve none of the requisite adult child skills or abilities to interact maturely with them.  I slip into bad habits from six years ago, ones that (I could have sworn) I’d outgrown.

The real irony is that my parents do think of me as a Real Live Grownup, this inadequacy I feel is strictly in my head.  My parents are fantastic, they’ve never treated as if I were younger, stupider, or less capable than I am.  The problem is me.  When I go home, I’m seized with the desire to wrestle with my siblings, pout when I don’t get my way, and roll my eyes at individual family members.  An exact copy of me as a snotty 17 year old.  Because I literally don’t know how to act 24 around them.  It’s disgraceful.

I imagine there is some disconnect for them as well.  After all, in one year I graduated, got a job, and got engaged, and planned a wedding completely apart from them.  They were great sports about it all, but I wonder if they ever feel like they’re scrambling to catch up on me too?

Note: not six and eight anymore.

It’s getting better, but I’m really still an idiot in a lot of ways.  See, this disproportionate view of development goes in the opposite direction as well.  When I moved out, my sister was six, she’s now 13.  Gio is a freshman at university right now, both he and Buddy are several feet taller than me and eat acres of food just to keep alive.  When I moved out, my father was still in the midst of a nice, international career, my mum was mostly still raising kids.  Now Dad is retired and Mum is teaching Western Civilization at university.

Where my family is concerned, I will probably never be a Real Live Grownup.  The sense of constant vertigo is too strong.  In my head, my brothers are still shorter than me, my sister is practically an infant, and my parents are at very different places in their lives.  Coming home and looking two feet up into Buddy’s eyes or sharing clothes with my sister or visiting a new house (usually in a completely new country) is just too much to keep up with.

It’s just as well.  Being a kid in my family isn’t too bad!

A Tale of Two Kitties

“Why the windows are full west!”
– Jane Austen

Small Cat Syndrome?

J.’s nickname for me, despite my legendary Small Dog Syndrome personality condition, is Kitty.  Not from any simliarity to my real name, but because apparently I have a cat-like tendancy to hide things.  Not consciously, but it would seem that after I use certain things they have the obnoxious habit of vanishing into the ether.  I also do admit to tucking somethings away in their “designated place,” the geographic location I immediately forget.  This means that our marriage is a constant smorgasbord of rediscovered treasure.

Hairpins turn up in the oddest places, especially considering I almost never use them, but we find bushels of them every time we vacuum or dust.  Pens!  Everywhere!  They breed in my pockets, purses, and cup holders.  Despite practically never carrying cash, coins (of mutiple currencies!)  rain from me like I’m some fairytale maiden who got on a witch’s good side.  I lose my glasses at least once a day.  They have been found, variously, in my jewelry case, under the couch, in the shower, beneath my pillow, and in my purse which both of us had searched thouroughly four times previous only to finding them smugly nestled besides my wallet.  The possibilities truly are endless.  And without fail, whever something turns up from somewhere it doesn’t belong, J. rounds on me with a pointed finger and an accusatory voice.  “Kitty!”

Just so we’re clear, and so my mother doesn’t wring her hands and ask where she went wrong, our house is not dirty.  That’s the amazing part.  We’re minimalistic in our decor, specifically because neither of us like clutter.  We deep clean once a week.  There is absolutely nothing to attract the wildlife.  People comment on its cleanlines when they come over.  And yet, when I go to plump the pillows – voila!  That book I misplaced a week ago.

And apparently the way to really unearth all the things I’ve “mislaid”  is to install new windows.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful.  Our old windows were nearly a half century old, leaked heat out, let cold seep in, and were generally a source of larger than necessary utility bills.  The largest one in our flat faces west and made summers in the desert a misery!  It got so hot during summer that our blinds would melt – or at least warp to a fantastic and almost unuseable degree.  So, new windows equalled better utility costs, temperatures human beings can survive at, and less destruction of our abode.  Plus someone else was installing them.  Terrific!

Saturday morning at 8:30am (who does that?  On a weekend!) my phone shattered the tranquility.  The landlords told us the contractors wou!d be by in an hour to rip massive holes in our walls.
“J.!  Get up!  Clean everything!  Move move move!”
Despicably undomestic as I am, I’ve got enough feminine pride/residual 1950s guilt to not want total strangers see my house a “shambles.”  Poor J. was dragged from his bed and forced to dismantle window blinds while I made the bed, dusted (before a bunch of workman came to chip away my windows…yeah…) and fell to scrubbing even the bathroom with religious fervor.

It was when we invaded the office/storage space/Room of Requirement that things started turning up.  Piles of papers neither of us could identify.  Chords to appliances we have never owned.  Boxes for things we never ordered.  A couple of cups we never missed.  Ribbons, Christmas gifts bought months ago, a couple of paintings…  J. was laughing uproariously by the time we finished.  We’d thrown out masses of stuff and I’d taken to sulking from his teasing.  “Kitty!”

Then we headed back to the front room to move the couches.  And found sweet, sweet justice.

Beneath the sofa I found an external hard drive, a leather business folder, two textbooks, and a pile of notes.  All J.’s.  The dumbfounded look on his face was priceless.  I danced in a circle around him crowing, “You’re a kitty!  You’re a kitty!”

Naturally ten minutes later, he found my glasses.  Again.  The status quo resumed.

Small Cat sulks.

*Second picture from Hyperbole and a Half.

In Which C. Debates the Wisdom of Copying Sav’s Awesomness

“You can watch this while I find someone who will perform a marriage ceremony between a crazed fan and a celebrity teen hostage. To the Internet!”
– The Fairly Odd Parents

Savvy just did something which, considered in light of current societal attitudes and the fact that a movie title The Social Network was just released, is quite brave.  She deleted her Facebook.  Apparently it took hours of dogged, single-minded determination and clicking, but she did it.

 

"Honestly, C., had you no life at all?!" "I'm SORRY!"

 

I confess, I’ve toyed with the idea myself.  Truthfully, the hours I’ve spent on that ridiculous thing will shame me when we’re all dead and get to watch the Big Movie of our lives.

However, I have a qualm.  Surprisingly I do use Facebook for its original intent: to keep track of people.  Having trucked over the world, keeping in touch with people can be a chore.  It’s the same reason why I’ve never changed my Hotmail address: I got it when I was 12 or 13 and across the years have given it out to friends/contacts/employers in multiple countries.  It’s the only way I keep in touch with a whole army of correspondents, I couldn’t do something so stupid as to change it simply because Gmail is en vogue (yes, yes, and better, yes I heard you).

Frankly, though, as the years have gone by, I’ve winnowed down my own social network quite a bit.  Scarlett, Peregrine, Jane, and Venice are far off, but I still communicate with them regularly.  Margot, Marie, Tink, and Angel, though busy, are still nearby.  The majority of people I see everyday… I see everyday: Hennessy, Wise, Susie, Sav, and Vodka, as well as the traffic clerks.  I regularly bump into Sadie on campus and we often get together with my whole godfamily to play, usually at least once a month.  And now that my parents live on the same continent as I do, keeping in touch with them has never been easier.

So…what do I really use Facebook for?

Honestly, the occasional glimpse into long gone friends’ lives (once every six months), to keep in touch with Gio as he heads off into his first year of adventure at university (daily), and to play stupid games (also daily, shamefully). In other words, with very few exceptions, nothing really valuable.

I don’t know if I have the moral fortitude to completely go cold turkey as the indomitable Sav did…but I am thinking that I really need to start weaning myself off it.

 

And how many of these behaviors/tendencies have you displayed recently?

 

Make your voices heard, minions!  Have you ever rethought your relationship with your techie relationships?  How many people would simply vanish from your life if you ditched Facebook, Twitter, and whatever bastard cousin of theirs has popped up recently?  And would you miss these people if they melted away?  How much of your life would disappear, and how much of it would you get back if you tuned out?  Weigh in.

Crisis Averted

“Ah, Cindy Sondheim, you should have lived in an earlier age.  Things were simpler, less complicated.  Do you know how many women had nervous breakdowns in the fourteenth century?  Two.”
– Love at First Bite

Thanks for all the lovely pick-me-up comments yesterday, darlings.  It was really nice to know how many of you have felt the same way – and as every last one of you have turned out amazing and unbelievably fabulous, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to do the same with a bit more time, a few more naps, and much less stress.

Yesterday was beastly (if you couldn’t tell!).   We’ve heard negatives on some of J.’s  internship applications and are still waiting to hear back on others, which is almost more nerve wracking.

I had to hire a dozen students last minute and despite telling administration multiple times that we don’t have space for any more people, they were still shocked to discover that we didn’t have enough lockers or uniforms/gear for them.  Unfortunately, the ones ending up looking foolish in this situation are your friendly neighborhood C. and Hennessy, who have to explain to several students why they have to cart a pile half as tall as me of gear home with them.

I barely averted a few violations that would have added up to potentially thousands of dollars in fines had I not caught them.

I’d only got four hours of sleep the night before.

So, these and other factors combined into the perfect storm.  Literally!  Just as I was getting ready to go do the laundry run, a massive lightening and rain storm whipped up.  You may recall how often it rains when I do the laundry run, it’s lately become the office joke.  So when I ambled past Susie’s office to tell her I was heading out I glanced our her window and froze.  It was pitch black outside and rain was lashing the pane.

I felt a helpless, hysterical giggle start bubbling up inside of me and a clapped a hand over my mouth to keep it in.  But to no avail!  Both Susie and Wise turned, saw the rain, and started chuckling.  Then Chief poked his head around the corner and grumbled, “Have you done the laundry yet?”

That did it.  I collapsed on Susie’s desk laughing (and nearly crying).  She and Wise joined in, Chief stared at us a minute before retreating to the safety of his office.  When I got home, I put on flannel pants, an oversized sweatshirt, pinned my hair up, and crawled into bed with a book.

All better now.

Something Has Happened…Notes on a Scandal

Responsibility without power, the fate of the secretary through the ages.
– Ariel Dorfman
 

Tomorrow I’ll finally (hopefully) have that long-awaited talk with Chief about this big to-do that went nowhere.  The whole experience has been more than a little ridiculous, a lot of drama and politicking for next to nothing to show for it, and I feel that I may be on the chopping block for it.  Now, Common Sense is arguing pretty solidly that Chief isn’t going to fire me for trying to accept an offer that would have bettered my long-term work circumstances…but Paranoia is hinting darkly that he may for no other reason than he feels I tried to betray him and the department.  Which isn’t true in the slightest, but I know by now that if someone wants to think the worst nothing will dissuade them.  

That'll teach you to not to use your spell check!
Little known 11th plague, whch wiped out all the scribes and secretaries.

The truth is, Dr. F’s offer meant the one thing that the Police Department cannot give me: a promotion.  By moving to the IS office I would have become the office manager and supervisor (what Susie is to me now).  Promotions in the PD are hard to come by.  Something truly biblical would have to happen, at least three other people would have to die suddenly in order for me to receive a new position, and as those people are my close friends the whole situation would probably prove traumatic.  Even Wise, when she left my position for her current one, didn’t move UP the proverbial ladder at all, her new responsibilities didn’t come with a higher grade or more money or more recognition, if anything it was a big step sideways.  Now although Dr. F implied more money for me (certainly with the upcoming University annual raise), the reason I wanted to accept this position is not so mercenary as that. 

J. and I have no idea where we will be next year for his graduate program.  California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Texas, Massachusetts, Utah, or Gibraltar, for all I know.  And we won’t know for several months yet.  But there is a good chance that we will be moving and now is the time to start brushing up my resume.  I’ve been encouraged to take IT training classes to fill my free hours during the Spring/Summer, but I’m also taking them to add to my list of hireable skills.  I’ve been reviewing past projects I’ve worked on to see what else I could do to make me appealing to potential future employers.  And when Dr. F offered me the chance to move up to a manager’s position, I wanted to accept it because the additional experience and responsibilities would have made me more desireable in the workplace (because, if you haven’t noticed, it’s a cold, cold, dark hiring situation out there and a girl needs all the help she can get). 

I hope I’m not going to be punished for trying to improve my situation, but I’m forced to entertain the possibility that I might.  My dark humor cannot help but picture me at job interviews, “So, why did you leave your job at the PD?”  “Well, I wasn’t trying to…”  but I don’t totally expect it.  Que sera sera.  However, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this whole event from a new perspective and I’ve come to some conclusions. 

First, there is no way that being a secretary is going to make me perfectly happy, fulfilled, or satisfy the immortal longings of my soul.  It is, in many ways, an utterly thankless job and acts of recognition are few and far between.  This irks me because I am a pretty ambitious woman, I like to move forward (and hopefully up) and dislike doing good work and receiving no credit for trying to be a good employee.  However, that is the nature of the beast.  I’m extremely well-educated but not at all qualified to do anything.  Margot and Venice are trained teachers, Janssen is a trained librarian, Brando is a trained stockbroker, Dad is a trained lawyer, Mum is a trained scholar…most of the people I know are a trained something.  What I’ve got (besides an encyclopedic knowledge of useless facts) is a good brain, common sense, and organizational skills, and these are apparently in pretty high demand because not everyone in my office has those. 

Second, I get frustrated, annoyed, and downright furious sometimes at how ridiculous my office can be and what I really need to learn is to let that go.  I can’t fix it, I can’t make the powers that be see sense, and things are not going to change.  I often feel that I’m smarter than my job, and I don’t think I’m entirely wrong.  In fact I think I’m positively right, but dwelling on that fact doesn’t change my circumstances and usually only serves to make me angry at my situation.  And hey!  I’ve got a job!  That’s a lot to be thankful for. 

Third, my job does not challenge me.  And I need to be challenged, as anyone who knows me at all will attest.  But it doesn’t and won’t and I need to stop fighting that fact.  What I need to do is adopt an Edwardian attitude towards it and make my life, as a secretary, my art.  Being an office monkey isn’t difficult, but being a class act and making it appear easy…now that’s a challenge! 

While I'm confessing, though, I think what I really want is the sense of value she gets. It's subtle but it's real. I'd love to be called into a meeting and have someone's reaction be, "C.. What a good idea."

In fact, while working out with Margot, it came to me in a flash of brilliance.  What I need to be, is Joan Halloway.  Er, minus the having salacious affairs with the men of my office (shudder).  Joan doesn’t necessarily want to be a secretary, but she enjoys being good at what she does and likes working.  She’s impeccably put together.  You don’t mess with her because she will take you apart (classily, but viciously).  And if you’re making an office coup, or some guy’s foot gets chopped off by a lawn mower, or someone is out because they’re having a baby and didn’t know they’re pregnant to begin with – Joan will locate your files, make a tourniquet out of a scarf, and step in to take over your correspondence.

I don’t have to adore being a secretary…but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a damn good one anyway.

Words That Bug Me, And Will Now Bug You

“I personally believe we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.”
– Jane Wagner

We all have word pet peeves, times when people use phrases incorrectly, insert words that don’t actually mean what they think it means, or when society at large is responsible for corrupting a word’s usage.  I probably take my particular pet peeves too seriously, but it cannot be helped.

“Ironic” – which does not mean unfortunate, coincidental, silly, funny, aggravating, or any of the other things Alanis Morrissette can now be blamed for teaching us to think it means.

An excellent example of common modern usage.

“Ye”- as previously mentioned, anytime you see a sign showing “Ye Olde [something], you’re not actually looking at a “y” but at an Old English character called “thorn” which makes a “th” sound.

This confusion is somewhat understandable as it is most commonly found in England where several linguistic invasions have made the language something of a puzzle for most who try to learn it as a second language.  Pear, pair, and pare, you try explaining that one.  Or the reason knight isn’t spelled night, when in other words a “gh” produces and “f” like in laugh.  Or why, depending on where you’re from, you may spell civilisation as civilization.  Or why English doesn’t really have rules, only exceptions.

First the Celts came to Britain, after possibly conquering another group of people who were there first, and as far as we know didn’t have much in the way of writing.  There are some hatch mark symbols carved in stone but these seem to have been a clumsy, tedious sort of way of keeping track of things and so they decided instead to rely on memory which they trained to fantastic levels (and where did you leave your keys this morning?).  Then came the Romans who brought Latin and other previously unknown practices (see Decimate below).  But then their empire, as it had become by this time since they’d given up most pretensions to a republic, caught a nasty case of “The Collapsings” and the legions were recalled from Britain, leaving the Romanized population unprotected and understandably miffed.

I think it's time for a trade up, lads!

The Anglo Saxons (go here and carefully note the caption!), watching this from their Germanic homesteads with glee, could see an upwardly mobile real estate deal when it presented itself, so bunches of the upped sticks and sailed over.  They originally were hired as mercenary protectors by the Britons, but they didn’t go in much for togas compared to rape and pillage and within a few years had taken over and set about to dividing into small kingdoms and declaring war on each other to their hearts’ content.  They also brought their language, on which somewhat better records were kept.  A few centuries later, just as soon as they’d got themselves unified into some semblance of order and had started keeping excellent chronicles, a Norman across the Channel decided he ought to be king.  William the Bastard, for that was his unfortunate name,  invaded and won.  He ousted the Anglo Saxon lords and installed his own Old-French-mixed-with-Latin-again speaking cronies instead, further enriching the language and changing his name to the much more impressive sounding William the Conqueror.

But, in spite of each subsequent invader’s attempt to quash the language of those who came before, the invaded stubbornly held on to an impressive lot of their old languages and culture, which is why something as old as a millennium old written character that looks like “y” and sounds like a “th” is still bulldogish-ly refuses to go away.  Which is good because “Yee old [anything]” sounds absolutely ludicrous.

Apostrophe – I know this isn’t a word, but you know what I mean.  People will throw this little mark wherever they think something should go, but for the life of them don’t know whether it’s a different spelling, contraction, or trying to show possession.

There/Their/They’re – And while we’re on the subject!  These are totally different words, figure ’em out!

Had this been painted a week earlier, it would have depicted the farmer's wife and children still alive. One must admire his optimism here, yes?

“Medieval” used when people mean backwards.  Actually refers to a distinct period in Western history which was complex, interesting, and full of people trying desperately to push their way forward out of the mess that Rome put them in after dividing, collapsing, and embarrassingly allowing itself to be ripped to shreds by barbarian hordes.  Western standards of music, culture, and literature were developed during this period.  Architecture, which had become an utterly lost art  was redeveloped literally from the ground up.  The ideas of credit, and banking were invented.  The whole period is a heartening example of human beings being knocked into the sludge over and over again with invasions, plagues, more invasions, famine, and a couple of other invasions, and consistently picking themselves up, dusting off the disease and gore, and getting back to the difficult business of human advancement.

Irregardless – This is not, in fact, a word.  At all.  Don’t use it.  Ever.

“Decimate” – Once upon a time, there was an empire that was cheerfully burgeoning in the centuries BC.  Not that they called themselves an empire, oh no!  That would have sounded barbaric and unenlightened.  They called themselves a Republic, the Roman Republic to be exact, and since they were so enlightened and grand, the ideal career for a spry, young Not-Empire was to invade all their nearest neighbors and force them to submit to their rule.  Really there were few things this adolescent Republic liked better than sauntering into Germany, Greece, or North Africa and casually killing a few thousand people before breakfast.

"Tough luck, Flavius." "Son of a Gaul!"

Not content with brutality directed at the unwashed masses they were trying to subdue (so that they could tax and enslave the snot out of them), occasionally when one of their vicious battalions mutinied or were insufficiently enthusiastic about marching off to slaughter, the commander would order them decimated.  Meaning that they would be divided into groups of ten, draw lots, and whichever one of them pulled the short straw was stoned or bludgeoned to death.  Literally it meant to reduce by one tenth.

Nowadays, the term decimation is used, completely at odds with its origin and etymology, to mean when people, places, or structures are reduced by cataclysmic proportions (although the American media is prone to exaggeration in this regard: “That windstorm last night decimated trees and power lines!” for example, when maybe one or two were knocked down).  Decimated does not mean destroyed, wiped out, broken, mildly damaged, and dirtied up.

“Like” – “It was, like, so hard!  I mean, like, I’ve never had to do anything that bad since, like, I had to pick out my, like prom dress!”  The word “like” means similar to.  Or fond of.  It can be used as a conjunction, verb, or adverb, it is NOT an equivalent to “um…”